Should You Use a Cat Training Mat?
Electrostatic shock mats - a cat mom's experience
I have always had cats…and I always will. Brought up in a family where our multiple pets were considered furry babies, I carried that way of thinking into my adulthood. I cannot imagine life without pets to love, and I bond deeply with animals, especially my cats.
Enter "The Outsider' (ominous music). That's what my fiance refers to himself as, in regards to the dysfunctional menage a trois we now find ourselves in after deciding to live together.
I love my fiance, David. I love my cat Minnow.
Minnow loves his momma. Minnow pretends my fiance, David, doesn't exist. (Normal cat behavior)
David adores me, but…I cringe, even thinking this…David doesn't seem to like Minnow.
I was shocked when I realized this, after four months of cohabitation. Minnow is adorable! How can anyone not love him?
Earth shattering for me, though Minnow and Dave seemed wholly unconcerned. I feel like I must fix this! They would be so good together!
I asked David what his main issue was, hoping he wouldn't give me one of those, "Cats creep me out" answers. I never know what to say to those people. You know what he said?
"It's the kitchen counters. He gets up there at night, and it's unsanitary. You know where his paws have been."
And you know what? I have to admit, David's right. Minnow won't do this right in front of me, but I will often walk into the room just as he's jumping down from the kitchen table or counters. I clap my hands and say his name disapprovingly, but he's already down.
I've just learned to not leave food laying around, and religiously disinfect the surfaces before I prepare anything to eat. It's not like he's lounging around on the counters, so I never really thought much of it. It's just a cat thing.
"Is that all you don't like about him?" I asked, as Minnow sat a few feet away, his back to us, flicking his tail and laying his ears flat. He didn't like us talking about him, I could tell.
David shrugged. "Yeah. I don't have a problem with cats. It just grosses me out that he gets on the counter. It's annoying."
Hallelujah! I could fix this!
So, I started with plant misters, which I'd read were successful. The problem is, Minnow won't misbehave when anyone's in the room. I wasn't catching him in the act.
Next, I tried that double sided tape stuff, "guaranteed" to put them off since they don't like the feel of it on their paws. I didn't really like using it, myself, since it seems to leave a gummy residue, so I admit, I didn't use too much of it, just a few strategically placed stripes. I was finding cat fur stuck to it, so I'm guessing it wasn't much of a deterrent.
Things were getting worse, with Dave and Minnow. We couldn't even watch a movie at night without David stopping at least once or twice to go "see if that cat's on the counter again". I even think he got up in the middle of the night a few times to try to bust him. And I swear, Minnow was starting to misbehave more just to spite him.
In researching cat deterrents online, I came across the ScatMat, a cat training mat. At first I passed right over it. I was equating it with a shock collar around a dog's neck, which has always horrified me. Especially in circumstances where people are just too lazy to put up a fence, and don't even test the collar on themselves before strapping it on a pet's neck! (sorry, just a little venting here).
I went back and read the description.
"Uses a mild and harmless static pulse to safely and effectively teach your pet to stay away from areas you want to protect. Simply place the ScatMat in any area you want your pet to avoid, and switch it on. The ScatMat responds to your pet's touch with a mild, harmless static pulse. Pets soon learn which areas to keep away from."
I read the reviews, and watched the videos. Nearly all the cat moms out there said they tried touching it first (as good pet owners would do), and that the shock was like static electricity. Not enough to say, "Ow!" just startling. The few bad reviews just claimed it did nothing.
It was kind of pricey. A 30" x 16" complete mat with the battery housing + 9V battery included was almost $50. But, I have Amazon Prime, so I thought it would be worth the gamble. Amazon Prime has always been excellent with returns for things that don't work out.
It came in two days, and I read the instructions and hooked up the battery. Easy. Three settings, so I tried the lowest and touched it. Nothing. I re-read the instructions, and found out you need to be touching two of the embedded wires for it to activate, and a red light will flash. I tried again.
Zap! It worked. It didn't hurt, more like a strong static shock you get in the winter from scuffing across carpet before touching something.
I tried the middle setting. OK, that one was a bit more prickly. Kind of like a fire ant bite, except the sting stopped immediately, of course. But still, I decided to leave it on the lowest setting.
I did not try the highest setting.
The mat is clear, which is sneaky. Cats don't see that well, (with the exception of their low light and peripheral vision) You have to remind yourself it's there; I've gotten zapped a few times resting my hand on the counter, haha!
I laid it on the counter near the sink, where Minnow seemed to go most of the time. I wondered if he would just avoid the mat and get on a different counter, but I wasn't going to spring for more mats (though they are cheaper if you just buy an extension, without the control part). I figured I would switch them back and forth if I had to, keep him guessing.
It was hard to tell if it was working at first, since Minnow wasn't in the habit of jumping up in front of me, anyway. But… I suddenly wasn't busting him jumping down when I walked into the room. I asked David what he thought - which was really the most important thing anyway.
"I think it's working," he said. "I had the window over the sink open all day while you were out, and one time when I came into the kitchen Minnow was just sitting on the floor, staring up at the counter. I think he must have already gotten a shock."
Great! We had never been able to use the window over the sink, since it seemed an like an invitation for Minnow to get up on the counter. I was excited. This could be a game changer!
And, a big relief for me… Minnow wasn't acting offended. I had been afraid if this whole issue turned out to be a harsh training process - whatever method we had turned to - that Minnow would withdraw from me, feeling betrayed. He'd look at me with a "how could you do that to me!" face or something like that. But Minnow didn't treat me any differently, he still cuddled, he was still my baby.
Apparently, the discomfort of the mat was not tied to me, in his furry brain. It was just a mean old mat!
The real test came when we had the lock plate on a closet door shift and the closet wouldn't close tight. It was a busy week, and it wouldn't get fixed for days. It also was a narrow hallway, so I couldn't prop anything to block the door. And you know cats…a closet to explore!
Except…this was a closet full of electronic recording gear that absolutely must not get cat fur all over it. Nor wires chewed. (less likely, but you never know)
I had an idea. I grabbed the ScatMat from the counter - almost forgetting to turn it off first - and set it on the floor inside the closet with about three inches peeking out underneath the door. Minnow watched me warily. He seemed to understand that the mat was not a friend.
It was not long, though, before curiosity got the best of him and he had to investigate. I watched from the living room, tempted to intervene, but decided he needed to get it out of his system.
Minnow approached the door, hooked a paw against the corner, and pried it open. I held my tongue. He stuck his head inside, and then tentatively stepped forward.
It took a second, I almost thought it wasn't working, but he suddenly backed up quickly, looking confused, and then leaned down to sniff the mat, careful to not touch his nose to it. Then he turned and walked away. Success!
As an added bonus, Minnow seems to remember that the counter is an uncomfortable place to be, even when there's no mat on it.
It took several days before we could fix the closet door and return the mat to it's original spot, and most of that time we had the kitchen window open… without one instance of Minnow getting on the unprotected counter!
I have to say, I'm pleased. Minnow and Dave seem to be getting along better, and there have been no interrupted movies to check on things in the kitchen. There is hope for our little family!
So, in closing, let me assure you, the ScatMat (used properly) will not injure your cat.
I can't vouch for other brands, but I definitely recommend using a cat training mat if it will ease tensions in the family. Cats are very sensitive to people not liking them, and emotional issues can lead to more serious problems, like spraying. And, let's face it, life isn't much fun if the ones you love are not getting along.
Another perk: a training mat could potentially serve to protect our furry babies from getting into substances or places that are dangerous to them. A good thing, as their curiosity often overrides their common sense!
*With any electrostatic shock device, please test it on yourself first.*
I hope my experience has helped you decide if a cat training mat is right for your situation. thanks for reading!